Sociology Exam Question
Using material from Item C and elsewhere, assess sociological views of the selection and presentation of the news. (18 marks)
I am going to assess sociological views of the selection and presentation of the news. Some sociologists say that the presentation of news is unbiased and in fact objective. On the other hand, some argue that the presentation of news is inevitably biased and that news presentation distorts reality.
McQuail (1992) argues that ‘news’ is not objective or impartial. Events happen, but this does not guarantee that they become news – not all events can be reported because of the sheer number of them. For example, they might be a bombing in a foreign country but it may not make the news because it is not deemed as important. McQuail argues that news is a socially manufactured product because it is the end result of a selective process. Editors and journalists make choices and judgements about what events are important enough to cover and how to cover them. For instance, a journalist may put their own spin (sensationalise) on celebrity news to make it more “juicy”.
Sociologists point out that the process of news selection is biased because it is dependent upon broad influences which include organisational routines and news values. In addition, news coverage is shaped by the way television news companies and newspapers are organised. This can be illustrated in a number of ways. For instance the content and style of news programmes is often dependent on the type of audience thought to be watching. Newspaper content too is focused on the social characteristics of a newspaper’s readers, e.g. The Sun is aimed at a working class young readership and so uses unsophisticated language because it believes that this is what its readership wants and will understand. Thomas (2008) notes that editors and journalists use the concept of news values to determine the worth of news and determine what type of audience it will...
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